Program

Dec 02, 2015

 OVERVIEW

 The Middle School Success (MSS) program targets girls in foster care who are transitioning to middle school.  MSS aims to increase their prosocial behaviors, reduce their internalizing and externalizing symptoms, increase the stability of their foster care placements, and reduce their substance abuse and delinquency.  During the school year, girls receive continuing one-on-one training and support, while foster parents participate in group meetings.  An experimental evaluation found that, in the short term, participation had statistically significant positive impacts on (decreased) internalizing and externalizing problems, but had no impact on prosocial behaviors.  MSS was not found to have an impact on delinquency.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:  Girls in foster care transitioning to middle school

In the short term, the Middle School Success (MSS) program is intended to reduce girls’ internalizing and externalizing symptoms, promote their prosocial behaviors, and increase foster care placement stability.  In the long term, MSS is intended increase girls’ prosocial behaviors and foster placement stability, and to reduce their substance abuse (tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana) and delinquency. The MSS program is based on the theory that there is a causal link from social competence in childhood to reduced internalizing and externalizing symptoms in adolescence, and on to reduced psychopathology, as expressed by delinquency and substance abuse in young adulthood. Prosocial skills are thought to have a direct protective effect.

MSS consists of two sets of parallel, six-session group meetings: one for girls and one for foster parents, with about seven participants in each group.  The groups meet twice weekly for three weeks in the summer prior to the start of middle school.  Follow-up services consisting of ongoing training and support are provided for girls (one-on-one) and foster parents (in groups), once a week for two hours during the school year.  Each session is manualized, and the group meetings for the girls typically include an introduction, role plays, and a game or activity during which the new skill is practiced.  Group meetings with the foster parents focus on establishing and maintaining stability in the foster home, preparing the girls for the start of middle school, and preventing early adjustment problems.  The foster parents are taught a behavioral reinforcement system to encourage adaptive behaviors.  Home practice tasks are assigned to the foster parents, to encourage the application of new skills each week.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

 Study 1

 Smith, D.K., Leve, L.D., Chamberlain, P. (2011).  Preventing internalizing and externalizing problems in girls in foster care as they enter middle school: Immediate impact of an intervention.  Prevention Science, 12(3), 269-277.

Evaluated Population: Study participants included 100 girls in state-supported foster homes.  To be eligible for participation, the girls had to be living in Lane or Multnomah counties in Oregon, and be finishing elementary school during the study period.  All eligible girls were referred through the local child welfare systems.  From the pool of 145 girls eligible for participation, 100 girls and their foster parents were recruited during the spring of their final year of elementary school.  About half of the study participants were from the largest city in the state, and half were from a more rural area. The girls and their foster parents in the control group received the usual services provided by the child welfare system.

 At baseline, the average age of the participants was 11.5 years, 63 percent were European American, nine percent African American, four percent Native American, 10 percent Latino, and 14 percent multiracial.  The girls had been in foster care an average of 2.9 years, and had experienced an average of 1.4 out-of-home placements.

Approach: Before the baseline assessment, girls (N=100) were randomly assigned by a coin flip to participate in MSS (n=48) or the control group (n=52).

The Parent Daily Report Checklist was used to measure internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and prosocial behavior.  The questionnaire was administered to individual girls and foster parents by telephone on three consecutive days.  Data collected included indicators of internalizing problems (e.g., irritable, nervous/jittery), externalizing problems (e.g., argumentative and defiant), and prosocial behavior (e.g., clean up after herself, do a favor for someone).  Data were also collected on maltreatment history (from child welfare case files), and pubertal development (from foster parents’ and girls’ reports), for each girl, as these variables are hypothesized to affect girls’ behavior.  The girls and their foster parents were assessed, at baseline and six months later, using standardized interviews and questionnaires for each girl and foster parent, an interview with the girl’s case worker, and child welfare records. The interviews lasted about two hours, were conducted in-person, and obtained data on child and family characteristics, child behaviors, and parenting practices.

Results:  The study found statistically significant positive impacts on internalizing problems (B=-0.28) and externalizing problems (B=-0.21) for girls who received the MMS program, compared with girls in the control group.  No impact was found on prosocial behavior at the six-month assessment.

Study 2

Kim, H.K., Leve, L.D. (2011).  Substance use and delinquency among middle school girls in foster care: A three year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial.  Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology, 79(6), 740-750.

Evaluated Population: Same as in Study 1.

Approach: In addition to the baseline and six-month assessments performed in study 1, this study performed assessments at 12 months, 24 months, and 36 months after baseline.  The assessments included both the girls and the foster parents, except for the final assessment, which included only the girls.

Results:  The study found statistically significant positive impacts on the number of foster care placements (Cohen’s d=.50), and on tobacco (Cohen’s d=.45) and marijuana (Cohen’s d=.57) use at 36 months after baseline, for girls receiving the program, compared with girls in the control group.  The study also found a statistically significant positive impact on girls’ prosocial behaviors (Cohen’s d=.46).  There were no impacts on alcohol use or delinquency.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

 References

Smith, D.K., Leve, L.D., Chamberlain, P. (2011).  Preventing internalizing and externalizing problems in girls in foster care as they enter middle school: immediate impact of an intervention.  Prevention Science, 12(3), 269-277.

Kim, H.K., Leve, L.D. (2011).  Substance use and delinquency among middle school girls in foster care: A three year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial.  Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology, 79(6), 740-750.

KEYWORDS: Children, Adolescents, Middle School, Female only, Community-Based, School-Based, Parent or Family Component, Skills Training, Anxiety Disorders/Symptoms, Social Skills/Life Skills, Tobacco Use, Marijuana/Illicit/Prescription Drugs, Alcohol Use, Delinquency

Program information last updated on 12/2/2015.